Friday, September 19, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 19, 2014

* Brazil: A new poll published this morning found that President Dilma Rousseff and main opposition rival Marina Silva are statistical tied in a likely runoff to decide Brazil’s next president in October.

* Argentina: An attorney for Citibank called for the suspension of a U.S. court decision that pushed Argentina into default and claimed that the Argentine government has placed a metaphorical “gun to our head.”

* Ecuador: Environmentalists, indigenous activists and others joined Ecuador’s largest labor union in anti-government protests in Quito yesterday.

* Latin America: Argentina (2nd) and Colombia (3rd) are the top South American countries in the latest FIFA soccer rankings while Costa Rica (15th) was the highest-placed entry from CONCACAF.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Blooomberg; LAHT; Businessweek; The Latin Americanist;

Thursday, September 18, 2014

”Great Scot!” Revisited

With Scotland’s independence referendum taking place today, which may not have taken place where it not for a failed colonization in Panama centuries ago.  The following is text from a post we first published in 2007:
The annals of history serve as a rich tapestry of events that may seem far-fetched but are actually true. Take the case with the push for Scottish independence that was hindered by a disastrous attempt to colonize in Panama.

By the late 1600s, the Scottish economy was doing poorly from constant warfare, lack of a sustainable market outside its borders, and widespread famine. As a solution, the Bank of Scotland established a colonization company, which then decided to create an outpost in Panama. It was a huge gamble in that half of Scotland's liquidity was invested in the project despite the raising of private funds.

What did the colonists find in Panama? Certainly not the welcome wagon:
“The conditions were horrible. It was unsuited for agriculture and the Indians they met were uninterested in the trinkets they brought them. This is probably because they only brought useless things like wigs, combs, and mirrors. During the spring of 1699, torrential rain brought disease to the colony and many died from malaria and yellow fever. About 10 colonists were dying each day and the rest had to live on a pound of nasty, moldy flour per week”.
With the economy in absolute ruin the Scottish government would soon sign the 1707 Acts of Union, which politically incorporated Scotland into the United Kingdom.

Daily Headlines: September 18, 2014

* Argentina: Three medical staff and two former commanders of a secret military hospital have gone on trial over their alleged roles in the illegal adoption of babies from political dissidents during the Dirty War era.

* U.S.: New Census Bureau data found that the poverty rate for Latinos dropped by 2.1% in 2013 while median income grew last year for the first time since 2000.

* Panama: Is the Central American nation of Panama really the world’s happiest country?

* Brazil: The U.N. removed Brazil from the World Hunger Map after concluding that the number of undernourished residents decreased by more than 80% in ten years.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube (Estela de Carlotto, leader of Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, reconnected last month with her long-lost grandson).

Online Sources – BBC News; Los Angeles Times; The Guardian; ABC News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brazil: Ex-Petrobras Exec “Remains Silent” at Corruption Hearing

Mum was the word for a former leading executive of Brazilian state-owned energy firm Petrobras at a legislative hearing related to the latest major scandal to rock the South American country.

“I think it should be an open session but because it isn’t I have nothing to declare,” said Paulo Roberto Costa during testimony he provided to congressional investigators on Wednesday afternoon.

The ex-head of Petrobras' refining and supply unit also reportedly uttered the phrase “I reserve the right to remain silent” (or similar wording) dozens of times from questions by parliamentarians related to his allegations against numerous senior politicians who received bribes in exchange for votes favoring Petrobras.  Costa, who has been imprisoned since March and accused of money laundering, was allowed by the Supreme Court to provide evasive responses to the questions during the three hours of testimony.

In an interview given earlier this month to Brazilian newsmagazine Veja, Costa accused Energy Minister Edison Lobão, both heads of Congress, and some thirty legislators mostly from the ruling Workers Party (PT) for supposedly participating in the kickback scheme.  

Costa’s silence on Thursday did not sit well several legislators during the closed-door session, especially those opposed to President Dilma Rousseff and her attempt to win reelection next month.

"We have not had any progress here, absolutely nothing," said Vanessa Grazziotin while Mendonça Filho decried that “the state is being robbed.”  Yet PT Sen. Humberto Costa accused his opposition colleagues of engaging in “radical speeches for political use".

Daily Headlines: September 17, 2014

* Venezuela: Standard & Poor's lowered Venezuela’s credit rating “based on continued economic deterioration, including rising inflation and falling external liquidity.”

* Puerto Rico: Reggaeton star Don Omar was arrested this morning in Puerto Rico and charged with domestic violence against his partner.

* Mexico: Thousands in Mexico’s Baja California Sur are without electricity, water or phone service due to Hurricane Odile though no fatalities have been reported.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos blamed an alliance of the FARC rebels and neo-paramilitary fighters for being behind the killing of seven policemen on Tuesday.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Bloomberg; CBS News; La Prensa; The Guardian

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 16, 2014

* Mexico: A Mexican politician has come under fire after posting a Facebook message referring to Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho as an “ape.”

* Brazil: The warden of a Brazilian prison where an inmate was recently beheaded was arrested and charged with helping prisoners escape.

* U.S.: A coalition of fifty groups commenced a campaign yesterday aimed at boosting the number of Latino voters participating in the November midterm elections.

* Puerto Rico: Approximately $900 million in tax and revenue anticipation notes is expected to be sold in order to raise revenues on the cash-strapped commonwealth.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; The Huffington Post; Reuters

Monday, September 15, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 15, 2014

* Mexico: Hurricane Odile swept through parts of the Baja California peninsula early this morning with 125 mile per hour winds and dumping a “mind-boggling” eleven inches of rain in the span of an hour.

* Cuba: Some 165 Cuban medical professionals will be sent to parts of Africa ravaged by a deadly Ebola outbreak.

* Brazil: FIFA admitted that senior officials with the world soccer governing body illegally received Swiss watches worth $25,000 after arriving in Brazil for this year’s World Cup.

* Colombia: The extradition process between Colombia and the U.S. has been called into question when a recently released “humble carpenter” was mistaken for a drug smuggler and held in prison for six months.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube 

Online Sources – NBC News; Associated Press; GlobalPost; InSight Crime

Friday, September 12, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 12, 2014

* Argentina: Argentine legislators approved a debt restructuring plan that could be at odds with a U.S. court ruling that led the country into default.

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro announced a three-month extension to the closing of traffic across the Venezuelan border into Colombia during the late night hours.

* U.S.: A Floridian man was charged with allegedly helping to smuggle Yasiel Puig from Cuba in exchange of a percentage of the superstar ballplayer's Major League contract.

* Ecuador: “People are dying from bad food, not a lack of food,” said President Rafael Correa who proposed a new tax against fast food with the aim of lowering Ecuador's growing obesity rates.

Video Source - YouTube via AFP

Online Sources - Reuters; The Latin Americanist; The Globe and Mail; The Independent

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chile Gov’t to Propose Eliminating Amnesty Law

Chile’s government will reportedly propose overturning an amnesty law protecting former senior members of the country’s authoritarian military regime.

According to the Chilean media, the plan will be presented later today on the forty-first anniversary of the military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet against the democratically elected government headed by President Salvador Allende.

The amnesty law has been in the books since Pinochet decreed it nearly five years following the September 11, 1973 coup that brought him into power.  Although some judicial decisions have circumvented the law and helped convict 260 people to prison for human rights abuses, only sixty have been sentenced due to protections offered by the amnesty law.

An estimated 1300 disappearances and 30,000 tortures took place during the seventeen years under Pinochet’s rule.  Most of them are believed to have taken place prior to the now-late ruler’s 1978 amnesty decree.

“Enough with the painful waiting and unjust silence...It is time to come together for the truth,” declared President Michelle Bachelet at an event this morning to as part of the commemorations of the 1973 golpe.

“Forty-one years have passed and the survivors and victims who saved their lives…are elderly people.  Most of them have died waiting for justice while others have kept silence,” added the president who was tortured at imprisoned and tortured at the infamous Villa Grimaldi detention center in 1975 and before fleeing into exile.

Daily Headlines: September 11, 2014

* Brazil: New government data indicated that deforestation in the Amazon rainforest increased for the second consecutive year due to illegal logging and the expansion of major infrastructure projects.

* Central America: Panama’s president claimed that a major expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed in December 2015 while construction of a planned interoceanic waterway in Nicaragua will reportedly commence later this year.

* U.S.: Homeland Security senior officials denied rumors of ISIS terrorists trying to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S.

* Haiti: Over one million doses of a treatment for the chikungunya virus as authorities worry that the rainy season could worsen the outbreak of the disease.

Video Source – YouTube user EarthOutreach

Online Sources – BBC News; ABC News; Inside Costa Rica; TVNZ; New York Daily News

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 10, 2014

* Guatemala: The Guatemalan Constitutional Court recently suspended the “Monsanto Law,” which would have forced farmers to obtain permission from firms like Monsanto, DuPont or Bayer in order to grow certain crops.

* Chile: President Michelle Bachelet announced a series of legal reforms including strengthening a Pinochet-era anti-terrorism law in response to a bombing in Santiago, Chile on Monday.

* Peru: Four indigenous environmental activists were murdered in a remote area of Peru allegedly at the hands of illegal loggers.

* Haiti: At least twenty-three people died and thirty-two were injured when a bus fell into a ravine in southern Haiti yesterday.

Video Source – teleSUR English via YouTube

Online Sources –VOXXI; Fox News Latino; The Latin Americanist; Voice of America; Reuters

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 9, 2014

* Mexico: Drought conditions on both sides of the border over the past few years could explain why Mexico allegedly owes some 380,000 acre-feet of water to the U.S.

* Latin America: A recent UNICEF report found that Latin America and the Caribbean has the worst homicide rate among children and youth, and at roughly three times the global average.

* Venezuela: Has Venezuela unofficially fallen into a recession due to a decrease of goods coming into the country?

* Honduras: According to Honduras’ human rights commissioner the number of deaths caused by firearms had more than doubled between 2005 and 2013.

Video Source – Reuters via YouTube (Areas of northern Mexico were devastated in 2011 due to the worst drought conditions in about seventy years).

Online Sources – The Washington Post; MercoPress; LAHT; Reuters

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chile: Gov’t Blames “Terrorists” for Bombing (Updated)

Chilean officials believe that an explosion in the Santiago subway system on Monday was a terrorist attack.

“This is an act that has all the hallmarks of a terrorist deed,” declared government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde regarding the incident that has left at least eight people injured including two in serious condition.

“There is no doubt. And it has been carried out with the intention of hurting innocent people,” he added.

 “I was having lunch, I felt the noise and we went out to see and we saw a lot of smoke, people running and shouting,” said Joanna Magneti, an eyewitness to the explosion that occurred at a fast food restaurant by the Military Academy metro station.

First responder Fernando Zapata told the press that among the wounded was a cleaning woman who lost several fingers due to the explosion.

Update: President Michelle Bachelet urged her countrymen to remain calm in light of the bombing on Monday.

"This is a cowardly act because it has as its objective to hurt people, create fear and even kill innocent people," said Bachelet to the press after she visited some of the injured at a Santiago medical clinic.

"We're going to use all the weight of the law, including the anti-terrorist law, because those responsible for these acts have to pay," she added.

Daily Headlines: September 8, 2014

* Argentina: Several thousand fans of Gustavo Cerati lined the streets of Buenos Aires on Friday to view the funeral procession of the late Argentine rock musician.

* Nicaragua: Officials claimed that a meteorite most likely caused a blast that left a forty foot wide crater in Managua on Saturday night.

* Chile: Police in Santiago clashed with vandals following a largely peaceful protest yesterday to commemorate the victims of human rights abuses during the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

* El Salvador: Ex-President Francisco Flores is under house arrest after he turned himself in to face corruption charges stemming from his alleged misappropriation of $15 million.

Video Source – YouTube user CadenaTres Espectáculos

Online Sources – The Telegraph; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; BBC News

Friday, September 5, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 5, 2014

* El Salvador: “Be very careful when there are groups that seek out destruction, who search for war, who don't know how to work on a team,” warned Pope Francis to a group of Salvadoran schoolchildren during a videoconference yesterday.

* Mexico: A new Amnesty International report concluded that torture is “widespread in Mexico” including a 600% increase in reported cases of torture over the past decade alone.

* Latin America: According to the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association investment in Latin America fell by 10% to $2.6 billion in the first six months of this year.

* Argentina: Archeologists in Argentina identified a new type of massive dinosaur “with a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail.”

Video Source – Rome Reports via YouTube

Online Sources – Yahoo! News; Al Jazeera America; New York Times; Huffington Post

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Argentine Music Icon Gustavo Cerati Died

Argentine rock legend Gustavo Cerati died on Thursday at the age of 55.

“In the early morning hours today the patient Gustavo Cerati died due to pulmonary arrest,” read a statement on the musician’s website from the Buenos Aires hospital where he was receiving treatment.

Cerati never regained consciousness after he had been in a coma from a stroke that hit him after a May 2010 concert.

Last May doctors claimed that Cerati was “clinically stable” but noted that there were “no significant improvements” to his condition and he continued to be connected to an “assistive respiratory device.”

From 1982 to 1997, Cerati was the lead singer of influential Argentine rock en Español group Soda Stereo. Along with Charly Alberti and Hector "Zeta" Bossio, Soda’s distinctive mix of rock and pop led them to create seven studio albums and thrilled audiences throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

“I still haven’t fallen (into reality).  My stance was always to have faith but evidently his body told him he had to go somewhere else.  I am at a loss for words,” lamented Alberti shortly after his friend passed away.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner officially declared three days of mourning in memory of Cerati.  Meanwhile, several thousand people in Buenos Aires queued up on a line fifteen blocks long Thursday night to get the chance to view his remains.

“High school, my first recitals; all the memories are flooding back.  His legend gave us life,” said longtime fan Alejandro Canario who was one of the many on the lengthy line.